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Custom Kitchen Islands: Materials, Details and Shapes that Function Well and Look Great

Updated on July 13, 2013

Build or Remodel Your Custom Kitchen Island

You don't have to settle for a boring standard kitchen island, even if you're using stock cabinets in your kitchen - custom kitchen islands are for everyone! There are dozens of ways to customize and personalize your new island so that it really stands out and becomes a focal point.

Custom kitchen islands vary from the totally custom-made and custom-finished island to match your custom cabinets, to a much cheaper island made out of standard size countertops and cabinets put together in unusual ways to give a custom look. If you're planning an island in your kitchen, don't assume that it has to match the perimeter cabinets in cabinet finish, countertop material, or height: you can use the island to give your kitchen a distinctive custom look.

Read on to learn about the many ways to create a custom kitchen island which fits you, your kitchen, and your lifestyle, then visit the Custom Kitchen Islands page at for lots more tips for creating a custom kitchen island, plus potential gotchas and difficulties to avoid as you plan.

Photo credits: IKEA Model Kitchen photos by kevinw1.

Kitchen island picture from Morguefile - used under license
Kitchen island picture from Morguefile - used under license

Materials for Creating Your Custom Island

Use wall and/or base cabinets to create a base for your kitchen island. Then you can customize it in some of these ways:


  • Customize the sides and ends of the base: add panels or doors to match your cabinets, cover them with wallpaper or fabric (varnished for protection), panel them with decorative materials like beadboard or tile or even use a translucent material and light it from the inside.
  • Use several counter-top materials: possibly a butcher-block prep area with a soapstone slab for pastry
  • Change cabinet colors on the base to contrast with your perimeter cabinets: antique-look vs modern, painted vs stained, dark vs light
  • Use a two-tone color scheme on the island cabinets: light and dark wood panels, distressed or antiqued paint finishes
  • Keep the same style for island and perimeter cabinets, but use a different color or finish to distinguish them

Multi level kitchen island
Multi level kitchen island

Details to Decorate your Custom Island

  • Add legs to the ends, or to support an eating counter. Look at old tables for proportions and sizes: some island legs I've seen in magazines are way oversized and clunky-looking to me.
  • Light your island with several decorative pendant lights: mini-chandeliers, industrial lighting, art glass shades, whatever you enjoy. For most flexibility, make them dimmable.
  • Include appliance drawers: freezer, dishwasher, fridge, even a warming drawer for plates and finished dishes.
  • Use small gaps between your base cabinets for bottle storage, narrow pullout racks for spices, display niches, cutting board or baking sheet storage, pull-out towel storage, cookbook shelves etc.
  • Tuck a small movable island in or under a larger fixed island for flexibility
  • Install an unusual sink which would not be practical as your main sink: perhaps an odd shape like a trough or less-used material like copper
  • A unique or showy faucet can be a great island feature too

Kitchen Design books

All these books have great ideas for kitchen islands, both traditional and contemporary.

Is your kitchen island customized?

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Unusual Shapes for Custom Islands

  • Modify levels on different sections of the island, up to bar level or down to table level
  • Make the island a unique shape. Why should everything be rectangular? Try angles and curves: prototype the shape with boxes to get the feel of how it looks and how it works.

Kitchen Islands: Love 'em or Hate 'em?

Do you like an island in a kitchen?

Why not tell us about them!

Do you have a kitchen island? - Is it customized with special details?

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    • KateHonebrink profile image

      KateHonebrink 5 years ago

      Love all these kitchen island ideas - can't wait to go to all your links!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      one of the creative lenses I read so far. love the way you put everything in details.

    • profile image

      rajat5855 6 years ago

      great kitchen ideas.

    • Heatherseesthel profile image

      Heatherseesthel 6 years ago

      What a creative lens--thanks for all the great tips (Especially about lighting! Dimmable is a great idea for intimate wine and cheese dinners.) Keep up the good work, Kevinw1

    • christabel2 profile image

      Christabel 6 years ago from UK

      great kitchen ideas.

    • profile image

      basementideas 6 years ago

      This give me some idea on how to remodel my old kitchen and probably put some new appliance there, too.

    • CruiseReady profile image

      CruiseReady 6 years ago from East Central Florida

      We did a major kitchen remodel several years ago, and didn't add an island. I sure wish we had, though.

    • profile image

      moonlitta 6 years ago

      I planned to get one a few years ago but my plan fell apart... I still like them very much and hope some day to be able to have one.